Work It Out!

Work It Out!

Fifteen minutes into the body conditioning class at the gym, a woman entered and worked her way to the front of the group. She asked my friend, puffing away next to me, to move over. My friend glanced at the woman and at all the available space in the room and said no, she wanted this place and didn’t want to move.

As any of you gym rats probably know, “moving over” isn’t just a matter of a lateral step in time to the beat. “Moving over” involves a step platform and at least 2 steps, a floor mat, three sets of weights, a body bar, and a towel and a bottle of water. (And again: fifteen minutes into the workout, and lots of available space.) Besides, we were in front of the mirror. A good place.

The woman offered arguments in favor of her demands, speaking louder and louder in order to be heard over THE MUSIC. My friend smiled, shook her head, sorry-no.

“YOU’RE A REAL BITCH!” the woman screamed. Screamed.

Twenty pairs of eyes snapped to attention and before twenty hearts could draw a breath our trainer flew into the fray. Our trainer is a very large man who looks like he could play for the Jets if he tired of hanging around with us. Gigantic Jesse and the latecomer screamed at each other; someone ran out of the room and called security; my friend and I exchanged glances, and meanwhile the twenty of us are now on about the 95th rep of bicep curls and squats, eyes round as 5 lb weights, lifting and lurching, all to the beat of “Rumour Has It.” Energizing!

As quickly as it began it ended. Security came, she left, and without missing a beat, Jesse guided us into leg lifts.

After class the group seemed to divide into 2 general opinions:

“Good for you for not giving in!” and “Would it hurt to move over a little and prevent all that drama?” Those in the second group shared their opinions more quietly than those in the first group.

Every confrontation has supporting conditions for one side or the other but I was surprised that in this situation anyone would have supported acquiescence, given how disruptive it would have been, and how unnecessary it was. On the other hand, assertive behavior used to be rare; more often than not the person in my friend’s position would have grudgingly made the move. And maybe accidentally dropped a 3 pound weight on the foot of the interloper.

Telling this story later I was applauding calm, assertive behavior and generalizing to a greater acceptance of honoring ourselves and what we want, when it isn’t harmful to others. But my companion suggested that perhaps what is being more greatly accepted is hostility and insularity and loss of collegiality. And besides, look what happens!

Yikes. Work it out….or not.

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